Our son is at the age where sleepovers are becoming more and more common. He went to one this past weekend, and I could tell from the moment we picked him up Sunday morning that it was going to be a long day. Ironically enough, last Saturday was National Day of Unplugging. Is it reasonable to assume that he and his friends observed this “holiday” during the sleepover? No, I don’t think so either.
Speaking of sleepovers, I was always the first one to bed when I was a kid. I just couldn’t hack it. My friends were always able to play video games until the wee hours of the morning, but not me.
I also learned yesterday that this week is the National Sleep Foundation’s “Sleep Awareness Week”. Who knew such a thing existed? I was already planning on this topic, so how fortunate for me!
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
During high school and college (and probably for a little while after college), the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” was a very popular way of thinking. After all, we’ve only got a finite number of days on this planet, so we may as well burn the candle at both ends, right? Yeah, wait until the years add up and kids come into the picture, and you’ll go ahead and toss that notion right out the window.
I read this article, by Dr. Travis Bradberry, a while back. Right off the bat, in the first sentence, he astutely points out that the “sleep when I’m dead” mentality will get you to that last day much faster. Lack of sleep can contribute to an impaired immune system, diabetes, and a risk of heart disease and stroke, among other things. And it causes increased irritability and stress.
While there’s an obvious link to happiness here, you might be wondering what impact this has on your personal finances. It’s no secret that many people will go on a spending spree to try and make themselves feel better when they’re stressed. So that lack of sleep could lead to a bad day at work, which leads to that purchase of something you really don’t need. And the cycle continues: buying items you don’t need leads to the mental and physical clutter we’re trying to eliminate!
Take Time to Make Time
But rejuvenation isn’t just about the quantity and quality of your sleep. Plenty of rejuvenation happens when we’re wide awake, and very intentional about it. The photo above was taken in a cemetery near our house. And the bench in the picture is where I go sometimes when I need some peace and quiet. Not only does it offer one of the most panoramic views of Atlanta, but the grounds are full of beautiful trees and flowers. I find that, when I sit here, my blood pressure goes down a little bit, and I’m able to clear my head by sitting in silence and listening. Somehow the awareness of everything going on around me allows me to focus more on my own thoughts.
Although I’ve stressed the importance of participating in life, you can’t do it all; you have to find a middle ground that allows you to experience life to the fullest, but that also provides you time to yourself. I received this article in an email newsletter last week, and it lays out 7 ways that solitude can be helpful.
In addition to visiting the cemetery from time to time (as odd as that sounds), I’ve also begun to use the hour during church each Sunday to clear my mind, and get my head right for the upcoming week. The great thing about our church is that it’s small and non-denominational, and our minister delivers sermons that are about living a happier, more productive, and purposeful life. So, I’m very intentional about that hour to try and shut out the negativity and live in my own bubble for just a little while. And, in doing so, Sunday after Sunday, I find myself much more relaxed, happy, and at peace.
A Vacation From Our Vacation?
Although I get it, I don’t get it. We’ve all heard it and we’ve all thought it. But doesn’t it seem a bit paradoxical if we return from a vacation as stressed, or more, as when we went? The best vacations I can remember all had one thing in common: time that was intentionally left unscheduled. This time may have been spent alone or with others, but there wasn’t an agenda – no requirement to be anywhere or do anything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been very intentional about spending some of this open time by myself, whether it be reading, walking, or just sitting and watching the world go by. Freeing ourselves from a jam-packed agenda during vacation gives us those moments to rejuvenate and be energized and ready for the next item on the schedule, or for our return home.
Take It to The Next Level
More quality rest, some alone time every now and then, or a vacation still not enough for you? In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, Timothy Ferriss discusses the idea of mini-retirements. Although everything he writes about in this book may not apply to you, it’s good to at least consider the possibilities. Ferriss also points out that any breaks you take in your career don’t have to be permanent. There’s no law that says you can’t recharge and then get back to it!
Why not press pause a time or two during your career? The longer you work, the more likely you are to get into a routine without even knowing it. Even with vacations and time alone, are you slowly but surely burning out? And isn’t there a fable out there about frogs and boiling water? If you put the frog into boiling water, it jumps right out; but if the temperature of the water is slowly increased over time, the frog doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. Do you ever feel like that frog? If so, get out of the water before it cooks you!
I’m using this time away from the corporate world as my own mini-retirement. My blog posts have been therapeutic for me, and I’ve even started my own company – both things that would have never happened had I kept going in my old routine. Will these things be what I do for the rest of my life? Hell if I know. All I do know is that I feel rejuvenated, my days are full of opportunity, and I’m more at peace with the state of my life than I’ve been in a long time.
Free Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow
If I may borrow from the lyrics of En Vogue, taking time to rejuvenate our minds opens the door to happiness, and frees us from making poor choices (with money or otherwise) that result from stress. Clear your mind, alleviate worry, and stop comparing yourself to others.
Spring is a time of new life, and it’s only a week away. Commit to rejuvenating your mind this spring and you’ll realize the beauty that sprouts from within.